End of an era

Silver Knights’ Neverett opts to step aside

LYNN, Mass. – The season had just come to a crushing end and the Nashua Silver Knights had to endure one more hurdle before leaving Fraser Field.

They had to wait for Futures League Joe Paolucci handing out awards for FCBL MVP, Reliever of the Year, and Manager of the Year before retiring Knights skipper B.J. Neverett could address his team on the field for the final time after a tough 8-7 first round playoff ouster.

Perhaps in the next couple of years it will be Knights getting those awards. In any event, Neverett mentioned to a couple of media members on Monday how what he’ll miss most is managing the late innings of a close game.

“That’s when you can really make a difference,” Neverett said.

Neverett maneuvered his way through some moves late in Monday night’s ouster at the hands of North Shore at Lynn’s Fraser Field. And they were good, solid moves. With Nashua leading 6-4, he inserted lefty reliever Kyle Skidmore to start the bottom of the seventh. But he was victimized by an error and a seemingly harmless popup that landed out in short left and scored a run. And then, well, Joe Quintal faced Logan Bravo and on a 1-2 pitch Bravo sent it some 400 feet out of the park to dead center, and Nashua was toast, down 8-6.

“It was a good swing, it was a good pitch down at the knees,” Neverett said. “We played really well, I’m really proud of these guys. A lot of people didn’t think we’d be here at. 500 at the end of the season and we fought back.

“You give up eight runs and we really pitched really good tonight. And people say, ‘Really?’ But we really did. Guys came in and pitched well. You have to give them credit.”

But the strategies didn’t work out, mainly for defensive reasons and also a rally-killing seventh inning baserunning blunder, and now the Silver Knights are done in Year 1 of the John Creedon, Jr. ownership era.

In the last 12 months, the locals have seen wholesale changes in ownership, front office, and the Futures League itself.

And now it will see a change in the dugout, as well as in player procurement.

Neverett was slated to go to Holman Stadium Tuesday and clean out his office, which has to be a tough move. He’s spent all of the last nine summers with the Silver Knights, and countless hours during the off-season as well.

“I’ll be able to process it at another time,” he said on the turf of Fraser Field.

But the goal for the Silver Knights on the field next summer should be obvious, if the league playoff format remains the same: Avoid the dreaded single game, one-and-done first round. To do that, Nashua will have to finish in the top two in the league standings.

The Silver Knights have suffered two straight one-run losses in the first round. They are 3-3 overall in that round, losing in extra innings at Torrington in 2014 and by one run at Brockton last season (remember Luke Tyree getting tagged out at home in the top of the ninth), and then Monday night after storming out to leads of 5-0 and 6-3.

They won at North Shore in 2015, then at home in 2016 over Wachusett, and at Pittsfield in 2017. The latter two seasons those wins put them on their way to the FCBL title.

But that has suddenly become a distant memory, and now the baseball part of the organization will need to plot a new course. Team owner John Creedon, Jr. still has his other FCBL club, the Worcester Bravehearts, alive in the playoffs vs. Brockton in the semis, so after the playoffs end and the dust settles, we’ll see what’s next.

Neverett thinks it won’t take long. Jackson badly wants the job, and it would make sense to give it to him. In fact, Neverett had him coaching third base on Monday night. He’s local, and as he said the other night, “I’ve been working for it for six years.” Oh, and he’s unbeaten when filling in for Neverett as manager.

The other question is who gets the players? It seems Operations Manager Cam Cook, who worked in tandem with general manager Dave Pahucki in heading the front office under fairly trying circumstances (not coming in until early April), may be interested. But, as Neverett said, whoever takes it has to be prepared to be on top of things with the college coaches throughout the off-season.

The Silver Knights need more players like North Shore’s league MVP Sean Lawlor, or Reliever of the Year Beau Dana. Dana had 13 regular season saves and although he allowed a run on a wild pitch to let Nashua close to 8-7 in the eighth, he got a six-out save. Dana, from Marblehead, Mass., transferred to Division III Dickinson College after starting his collegiate career at Georgtown. Lawlor plays for Flagler College, a Division II team in St. Augustine, Fla.

Or a Bravo, who hit his ninth homer of the season to send the Knights off to their respective schools? He’s a Harvard kid.

Either way, it’s sad to see the Neverett Era end. He truly cared about his job, and wanted to make sure his players got a valuable experience to take back to their schools. He talked to them after every game, and the other night made sure he made that final address.

“I look at the kids right now and they’re good, they’re heads are up, and they should be,” Neverett said.

So should Neverett’s. Thus a Nashua era ends on a field where another one ended – the rein of former Nashua Pride manager Butch Hobson. He managed his last Pride game at Fraser Field in September of 2007, but it ended in celebration of a Can-Am League title.

Neverett’s ended with words of wisdom and hugs with each player thereafter.

The highly successful Neverett era – four FCBL titles in nine years either as a coach, manager, but always as VP of Player Personnel – is over, and now the Silver Knights fans will be anticipating a new one to begin.